August 7, 2017

Monday, August 7, 2017

School Discipline Reform takes Effect in MI

School districts across Michigan are preparing for a new school year and a revised statewide discipline policy.

Legislation signed by Governor Rick Snyder in December went into effect last week, removing the mandate that Michigan school districts follow a zero-tolerance discipline policy.

Snyder said the previous zero-tolerance policy didn’t give schools the ability to consider a student’s age, developmental disabilities or intent when deciding on a punishment.

"We are giving school districts the flexibility to consider many factors when making decisions on disciplinary actions for students,” Snyder said. "No longer will every student be immediately suspended or expelled due to misconduct. This is similar to measures we have taken to reform our criminal justice system by emphasizing restorative justice."

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) shared data showing that students “suspended or expelled for a discretionary incident were nearly three times as likely to be in contact with the juvenile justice system in the next year.”

The MDE provides research online citing that zero-tolerance policies keep students out of the classroom where they should be learning, they may make students feel alienated from the school community and as a result can lead to chronic absenteeism.

MLive reports that 1,319 students were expelled in the 2015-2016 school year in Michigan.

Research has shown a zero-tolerance policy can lead to racial disparities in school discipline. CMF highlighted last fall that the Michigan League for Public Policy’s (MLPP) report, Race, Place & Policy Matter in Education showed that African American students had higher rates of suspensions and were more than twice as likely to be expelled from school.

The MLPP recently shared in a blog that dismantling zero-tolerance discipline policies will better serve students and communities, saying in part, “These policies also were having an adverse effect on students of color in particular, with significant racial disparities in suspensions and expulsions that also contribute to lower graduation rates and higher rates of incarceration.”

Now the state is providing more flexibility for schools to consider each situation on a case by case basis. The new state law will require school officials to consider situation-specific factors such as age, disciplinary history, disabilities, behavior and safety of others, before suspending or expelling a child.

The governor’s office says the legislation also encourages restorative justice practices or a lesser punishment as long as the response properly addresses the violation.

MDE has shared a collection of online resources and toolkits for a restorative justice model calling it “a time-tested alternative discipline approach that keeps kids in school, demands direct accountability and builds connections that help students succeed in school and life.” Restorative justice is grounded in peaceful and productive conflict resolution strategies.

Here’s an example (on page 17) MDE shared of traditional (zero-tolerance) discipline versus a school culture grounded in restorative justice practices:

  • A student gets into a minor altercation with a fellow student in the cafeteria.

  • In a traditional zero-tolerance situation a school police officer may be called in to intervene, removing the student from school for the remainder of the day.

  • Using restorative justice student peer mediators and support staff intervene to de-escalate the situation. The students agree to clean the cafeteria during a free period and the student stays after school to meet with their counselor.

Even with a more flexible discipline approach for Michigan schools, communities will soon be able to see expulsion and suspension data first-hand. Under MDE’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan, a dashboard will share and track data on expulsion and suspension data to show parents if there are disparities.

MDE told Michigan Radio that tracking the data and providing it on the dashboard will be "a very big policy shift that could really help us as a state with our school-to-prison pipeline.”

Want more?

Connect with CMF’s P-20 Education Affinity Group.

Join us in October for Moving the Needle on Chronic Absenteeism, a breakout session developed by the P-20 Education Affinity Group for CMF’s annual conference, Our Common Future, hosted in partnership with MNA and IS.






Protecting Our Digital Society

In Michigan, we want our potholes filled, and our roads properly maintained. We want to ensure safety, and to attract talent and economic development to our communities. We rely on our roads. But we also rely on our digital highway, as advocates say digital infrastructure is just as critical to our everyday lives as physical infrastructure for safety, talent, economic development, health care, education and more. However, experts say the investment just isn’t there.

The Ford Foundation recently tweeted, “Our digital infrastructure is at risk of being undermaintained,” sharing a blog and an in-depth study the foundation sponsored, Roads and Bridges: The Unseen Labor Behind our Digital Infrastructure, on the lack of investment in digital infrastructure, the barriers and why it’s more important now than ever.

The 143-page report provides a deeper perspective on the integral role of open source code and its great vulnerabilities that need to be addressed.

The report shares that open source code is free and publicly available, it’s used to develop software and apps that we use in all sectors including business, health care, education, nonprofits, etc. We all rely on open source code every day, even if we don’t realize it, you’re reading this article via CMF’s website due to open source code. WordPress which runs nearly 60 percent of the websites on the internet also uses open source code.

Here are a few benefits of open source code according to the report:

  • It helps remove barriers for startups to launch. They don’t have to focus on building their own code, they can use publicly available code that’s free. It allows everyone to access, use and modify coding for their own use.

  • Through open source code, people around the world can learn coding at home that can connect them with more job opportunities and higher wages.

  • Open source code is cheaper to build and easier to distribute unlike proprietary software that’s developed and owned by a company.

The demand on the model is growing and there aren’t enough people working behind the curtain to fuel this critical component to our digital infrastructure, that means there’s not enough support for needed maintenance to avoid breaches or outages. The study points out there’s no structured authority or owner to guide this work in the vast world of the internet, it’s up to everyone.

“Open source software is being created and used at a rate never seen before. Many open source projects are experiencing a difficult transition from selfless creative pursuit to critical public infrastructure. These increasing dependencies mean we have a shared responsibility to ensure that these projects find the support they need.”

Report recommendations include:

  • Treating digital infrastructure as a necessary public good and elevate its importance to key stakeholders across sectors

  • Working with projects to improve standards, security, and workflows

  • Expanding the pool of contributors so that more people can build and sustain public software together

  • Advocacy and education around the need for digital infrastructure

“Civil society depends on the safe, ethical and effective use of digital data and digital infrastructure - for expression, assembly, and collective action,” Lucy Bernholz, senior research scholar and director at the Digital Civil Society Lab at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (Stanford PACS) recently shared in her blog.

Bernholz and her colleagues are currently taking this message globally, participating in a Digital Impact World Tour to convene practitioners and make “a solid and convincing case for civil society's dependence on the internet and our collective role in protecting the resource.”

At their last stop in Berlin, Bernholz shared the Mozilla Internet Health Report, a new initiative to engage more people in protecting the internet and digital infrastructure.

There’s more efforts to address this issue in the works, as the Ford Foundation plans to announce its first digital infrastructure grants and new opportunities to tackle this issue in the coming months.

On the state level, The Pew Charitable Trusts reports that legislation is in the works in Lansing that would allow the Michigan Cyber Civilian Corps. to be more accessible to nonprofits, businesses and state and local governments to prevent and respond to cyber-attacks.

So far, the Michigan Cyber Civilian Corps., a group of volunteer cybersecurity experts, has been on hand to respond and assist the state in resolving cyber incidents only when the governor declares a state of emergency, this new legislation would expand their work.

Want more?

Read Roads and Bridges: The Unseen Labor Behind our Digital Infrastructure.

Take a deep dive on digital infrastructure with Lucy Bernholz.

Bernholz will lead two sessions on protecting our digital infrastructure and provide insights around advocacy and education from the Digital Society Lab’s World Tour at CMF’s annual conference, Our Common Future, hosted in partnership with MNA and IS, October 25-27 in Detroit.





Tackling Child Poverty

A new bill with bipartisan support has been reintroduced on Capitol Hill, aimed at developing a national roadmap using “evidence-based policies” that will reduce child poverty by half within a decade.

Child poverty is a global issue and an issue here in Michigan that touches every facet of a child’s life including health and education outcomes.

 As CMF shared in June from the Kids Count Data Book, 22 percent of Michigan children are living in poverty. Michigan’s ranking in children’s economic well-being is also trending down, this year we’re ranked 31st in the country, down from 28th in 2016.

While we examine poverty data, CMF reported in April that 15 percent of Michigan households live below the poverty line but there’s a greater number, 25 percent, that are working and live above the federal poverty line, often aren’t eligible for aid and still can’t afford the basics, they’re considered ALICE (asset limited, income constrained, employed).

How can we better support these families?

First Focus, a nonpartisan advocacy organization, shares that the reintroduced Child Poverty Reduction Act is modeled after a successful British initiative that leveraged investments for children and policies to support families, which reduced poverty significantly in the U.K. within the first 10 years. First Focus says that the U.K. employed tax credits, increased support and incentives for working parents, improved earnings, early education programs and more. (Due to growing instability in the U.K.’s government, there have been recent cuts to such programs and policies that are negatively impacting its success.)

First Focus shares that the U.S. model via the Child Poverty Reduction Act includes the following provisions:

  • Create a working group to develop a national plan that would reduce child poverty within 10 years and eliminate it within 20 years.

  • The legislation would require the plan be co-developed with nonprofits and other agencies that provide or support social services for children and low-income families.

  • Track the data. The working group must monitor progress and track data towards the target.

While this federal legislation is under consideration, programs and policies to support low-income families continues here in Michigan.

David McGhee, program director at The Skillman Foundation recently wrote an op-ed in Bridge Magazine about Michigan’s child poverty and well-being stats saying in part, “In order to improve child well-being and ensure that families in our state thrive, Michigan must expand two-generation programs that support parents and improve economic stability for families that are struggling to get by. We have to invest in our schools, communities and successful practices, policies, and programs that support work, like the Earned Income Tax Credit.”

The Michigan League for Public Policy (MLPP) has been advocating for lawmakers to restore Michigan’s Earned Income Tax Credit to 20 percent of the federal credit, it’s currently at 6 percent. The MLPP shares that at current levels the average credit is $143, if restored it would be $477, saying it “promotes work and reduces the need for public assistance, helping families take steps toward self-sufficiency.”

Highlights of a few of the most recent initiatives by CMF members to provide support to Michigan children and their families include:

·       W.K. Kellogg Foundation recently announced the launch of Community Food Innovation, a new interactive website to learn about projects providing equitable access to healthy food and how you can get involved in the work in your own community to support children and their families.

·       General Motors and The Skillman Foundation announced last week they’re collaborating to support classroom readiness, sustainable employment and neighborhood revitalization in the Cody Rogue community in Detroit.

·       Charles Stewart Mott Foundation announced on Thursday that its providing support to YouthQuest to ensure Flint children continue to have access to after school and summer learning programs.

Want more?

Learn about the 2017 Child Poverty Reduction Act.

Check out resources from First Focus.

Read the Kids Count in Michigan Data Book.

View highlights of the ALICE Report.







Ruth Mott Foundation awards $1.5 million in grants for north Flint

Content excerpted from a foundation press release. Read the full release here.

The Ruth Mott Foundation recently announced it’s awarded $1.5 million in new and continuing grants to support north Flint.

The foundation is supporting Genesee Health System in an effort to provide ongoing services in response to the Flint water crisis which includes a mobile mental health counseling unit and door-to-door outreach for caregivers suffering from fatigue. The program is designed to ease the anxiety and post-traumatic stress related to the water crisis.

The foundation’s cumulative $1.5 million in grants are focused in the areas of youth, public safety, economic opportunity and neighborhoods, which were the top priorities that north Flint residents told the foundation to focus on as it sought community feedback in forming its north Flint strategy. We’re sharing a few highlights of the grants.

The foundation is supporting the MADE Institute and Re-Connections for their work in providing support and resources to those returning to the community after being incarcerated. The organizations are providing a transitional living facility, job and financial literacy training to help former inmates successfully rejoin the community.

United Way of Genesee County was given a grant from the foundation for a community-based micro grant platform that supports startup companies through crowdfunding and collaboration. Flint SOUP is aimed at leveraging entrepreneurial growth in Flint and helping residents grow their ideas into startups.

The foundation is also supporting the Neighborhood Engagement Hub, a community center in north Flint that provides space and resources for residents and serves as a Flint Police Neighborhood Service Center.

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